Read: Reading is a Secret University!!



Drs. Tsegezab Gebregergis, London, May 10, 2014


I have designated the title of this article “Read: Reading is a Secret University” because I believe that the act of reading the works of others establishes a constant dialogue and interaction between the reader and the author. In the process, the reader develops and sharpens an inquisitive and critical mind and gathers immense new knowledge and wisdom, which gives him/her self-confidence, patience, understanding, and self-control in dealing with others.

So my piece of advice to my fellow Eritreans and to my own children is this: Read in order to develop a reading culture and to accumulate new knowledge. For throughout history, knowledge has been – and is – the most precious capital for its possessor and for the society of which the individual is a member. I can thus assure my fellow Eritrean brothers and sisters that, armed and accompanied with knowledge wherever you go and whatever you do, you will certainly be crowned with success in your life. In other words, armed with scientific and historical knowledge, you are a great asset for your own country and to yourself.

I spend most of my time reading and researching

I spend most of my time reading and researching, assisting fellow Eritreans in need, and writing articles in defense of my country, Eritrea. For me, Eritrea is everything. For I know that a people without a county of their own are like birds without wings at the mercy of their enemies. I thus have a strong belief that Eritreans, irrespective of  their differences and anger with their government, must defend independent Eritrea and its people. It must be made abundantly clear that Eritrea belongs to the Eritrean people and not to the PFDJ government or its leader Issayas Afeworki, as some seems to believe. Consequently, Eritreans must be very loyal to their country and its people, irrespective of the nature of their government. If we don’t, one day we could be like birds without wings or a nesting-place. Is this what we want? The answer is obviously an emphatic no.

For independent Eritrea is going to shine forever.

Having made the above remarks in passing, let me now dwell on the subject matter.

I read recently in Tigrinya (one of the Eritrean languages) a book bearing the title Codes and Bylaws of Eritrean Regions and Counties. Having read it, I decided to write this article in order to share my findings with my fellow Eritreans and others interested in the subject matter.

To my understanding, the principal and major purpose of this compiled book is to introduce Eritreans and non-Eritreans alike to the ancient written customary laws of Eritrea. The book is divided into nine chapters, each of which deals exclusively with the customary laws and linguistic groups of the different regions which comprise Eritrea today. The book was indeed written and put into practical use in 1884 and was updated three times: in 1650, during the reign of the Abyssinian King Fasiledos; in 1892, during the Italian occupation of Eritrea; and lastly, in the 1940s during the British military occupation of Eritrea (see p.207).

The book vividly shows how the people of “Medre Bahri”, (“land-by-the-sea”) were leading an orderly life under written republican types of customary laws. Codes and Bylaws of Eritrean Regions and Counties covers every aspect of social life in Eritrean society. These are customary laws designed by their authors to reflect the levels of social, cultural, and economic development attained by Eritrean society at the time they were written. The main theme and area of focus of the book is on perennial societal issues such as land rights, marriage and divorce, criminal offence, inheritance, and litigation issues.

This compiled book of Eritrean codes and bylaws is therefore a very important historical document to the Eritrean people and to Africa as a whole, just as the Magna Carta was to the English people. It is important not only because it helps us to understand the historical development of Eritrean society, but also because it also unearths and exposes the racist and false claims and teachings of many European “historians” and “anthropologists” regarding Africa: i.e. their dismissal of Africa as a “dark continent” inhabited by “primitive people” without a history of their own prior to European colonization.

Interestingly, Eritrean Codes and Bylaws was already in existence before Columbus “discovered” America in 1492 – at a time when Europeans were superstitious cave-dwellers who believed that Europe was the only inhabited region, and the centre of the universe.

It is therefore hoped that this 570-page book, Eritrean Codes and Bylaws, will be of special interest to historians and historical libraries, historians of customary laws of traditional societies, students, anthropologists, and researchers on Africa. What is more, at this critical juncture of Eritrean history, I believe the Codes and Bylaws of Eritrean Regions and Counties is a very important document for Eritreans from all walks of life to study earnestly in order to be able to judge whether or not, and to what extent, aspects of the customary laws devised by their forefathers could be integrated with the existing 1997 promulgated Eritrean law; or when and if a revised modern and democratic constitution is adopted for the new democratic Eritrea in the offing.

Finally, I must state that I was excited, exalted and proud to have read the book and learned that the people inhabiting today’s Eritrea were governed by codes and bylaws of their own long before the country was named Eritrea by the Italians in 1889, and when Europeans were at their lowest stage of historical development. I thus highly recommend reading this historical document and preserving it for this and future generation of Eritreans.

The book was compiled and edited by Zerayakob Estifanos, Woldemariam Abraham and Gerima Gebremeskel.